Decision Time is Coming

March is an exciting time for seniors as college admissions decisions continue to roll in. Students all over the country are waiting with baited breath to learn where they might be heading in the fall. Parents are waiting to see just how much money each school is offering, hoping that their child’s top choice will also be the most generous. By early April, all options should be on the table and the time will finally come to decide.

For some families, the decision will be easy – the top choice college will send a fat acceptance packet and a fat financial aid offer. These students can joyfully check the box saying, “Yes, I plan to attend!” and spend the next few months enjoying their senior year.

But for many families, it will not be this simple. Maybe the top choice college sends a dreaded rejection letter. Or, even more difficult, the top college accepts the student, but does not offer enough financial aid, forcing the parents to decide between finding creative ways to come up with the money, or telling their child that the dream school simply isn’t an option.

However, if a student has been savvy in building their college list in the first place, the next few months should not be disappointing or frustrating. A savvy applicant will have applied only to colleges they are actually excited about attending, with a healthy number of “match” and “safety” schools on the list. And finally, a savvy applicant would be careful to apply to colleges the family is likely to afford. I strongly encourage all my students to stick to these guidelines when building their college lists, so that come spring, they have the privilege of deciding between several attractive options.

So, what should you do if you find yourself in the fortunate position of deciding between several desirable colleges? First, pat yourself on the back for applying well in the first place!

Next, I recommend reevaluating your priorities, which may have changed since you applied. Pinpoint the qualities that really are most important to you, then examine each of your choices against those qualities. For example, while you may be thrilled to have UCLA as an option, perhaps you’ve decided that you prefer a much smaller campus setting. Or maybe you’ve realized that architecture is your true passion, meaning you’ll have to drop Duke University in favor of schools that have architecture, no matter how much you wanted to be a Blue Devil.

Then, perhaps the most critical step, visit or re-visit as many of your choices as possible. Many colleges arrange an overnight stay for accepted students, a highly recommended option if you have it. Spending time on each campus usually makes it clear which schools really is the best match, so you can joyfully check the YES box, and get back to the business of enjoying your senior year.

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